As one of the world’s greatest sporting events leaves our shores for the warmer climes of Italy, the feel-good factor created has been hailed as a potentially lasting legacy.
First Minister Peter Robinson said the success of the Giro d’Italia’s only visit to the province had “undoubtedly reinforced our profile on the world stage”.
The Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport said that to describe the rapturous Ulster welcome as “Giro fever” would be an understatement.
The ‘Big Start’ got under way in Belfast on Friday and, after two stages in Northern Ireland, finished in Dublin on Sunday. From Armagh the race passed Loughgall and Markethill and crossed the border into Louth at lunchtime then through Drogheda and Swords and Malahide.
All along the cross-border 426km route towns turned pink and crowds cheered the 200 riders.
Mr Robinson said: “I commend the citizens right across Northern Ireland for their phenomenal support over the last few days which has helped to make this Grande Partenza one of the best in the Giro’s history, one of the most colourful and exciting events we have ever hosted.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The cyclists will now move on to the next stage, however the long term benefits from a tourism perspective for us will be long lasting. It is another great event we can point to when bidding for further world class events to be staged here.”
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said: “The spin-offs from the race for our economy and tourism industry have been tremendous.”
The PSNI praised everyone involved in the Giro, and thanked the public for their patience during the road closures.
ACC Alan Todd said: “This was a stunning sporting extravaganza, which demonstrated, once again, that we are capable of staging international events.”